Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Church Sex Abuse Scandal: Blaming the Messenger

Rome -- and its outposts -- just don't get it. There have been real crimes committed by men of the cloth, crimes that have all too often been swept under the carpet by their superiors, crimes that are emerging for public scrutiny to the embarrassment of Catholic faithful worldwide. We want answers or, at least, someone to answer for what has happened in our Church -- a truth and reconciliation commission, if I may be so bold as to borrow a concept used more often in the case of crimes against humanity, torture by military dictatorships, apartheid, etc...This is what we are getting instead:

1. Don't want bad news? Cancel your subscription. That's what the Archbishop of Portland John G. Vlazny did to the Oregonian. An excerpt from the Archbishop's statement: "The last straw came on March 31. On the editorial page again, this time in the form of a prominent editorial, the editors arrogantly scolded the church for its past failures in handling this matter of child sexual abuse and, in an insulting and unfair attack, chose this most holy time of the year, during our church’s Year of the Priest, to connect the practice of celibacy among our clergy with the problem of child sexual abuse, when everyone knows that most abusers by far are married persons! Is every single person now under a cloud of suspicion? Or only single Catholic priests? If only the latter, don’t you wonder why? For more than ten years as Archbishop of Portland, in one way or another, I have pondered these challenges and perhaps taken them more seriously than they merited. But I knew that reconciliation and healing among those aggrieved would only be possible if we who are the church were truly repentant and serious about doing better. But the media could never be satisfied. Why? It’s a trick as old as the human race. “When you don’t like the message, destroy the messenger.”..."

The Oregonian's editorial page editor Bob Caldwell responded: "Our editorial and cartoon about the child sexual abuse scandal were not, in any sense, anti-Catholic. They could be construed as critical of the pope and church's handling of abuse cases over the years, but the editorial was both thoughtful and hopeful. We had no intent to offend anyone, although I am not surprised that some disagreed with the opinions expressed on our pages."

Incidentally, the Portland Archdiocese has a whole Web site where documents pertaining to its abuse cases are posted: http://www.archdiocesedocuments.org/

2. "The best defense is a good offense"? This seems to be the tactic from those surrounding Pope Benedict XVI:

  • Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals: "The Pope embodies moral truths that aren't accepted, and the shortcomings and errors of priests are being used as weapons against the church...It's not a bishop's fault if one of his priests is stained by grave wrongdoing. And certainly the pontiff is not responsible." Also from Sodano's Easter greeting to the Pope: “Holy Father, the people of God are with you, and do not let themselves be impressed by the gossip of the moment, by the challenges that sometimes strike at the community of believers.” (dude, you need to get out of the Vatican and into the trattorias and start listening to the people of God)

  • Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, said that the reporting on the sex abuse scandals was part of a campaign of "hatred against the Catholic Church." (perhaps it might be better to view it as part of fraternal correction because many of the critics are devoted Catholics who are just tired of the scandal)

  • Spanish Cardinal Julian Herranz, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said that the Pope's opposition to gay marriage and abortion put him at odds with "powerful lobbies (which) would like to impose a completely different" agenda on the Church. (actually we would like to get the sex abuse issue out of the way so we can get back to arguing with the Church about women's ordination and gay rights)

Meanwhile, the abuse and coverup reports keep emerging like pus slowly draining from a boil:

  • Georg Mueller, a former bishop in Norway, admits to having sexually abused an altar boy 20 years ago when he was a a priest in Trondheim.

  • Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, a Roman Catholic priest in southern India charged with forcing a 14-year old girl to have oral sex with him in Minnesota in 2004 has said that he will return to the United States to face the charges.

  • Politics Daily blog reminds us that the current head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which still supposedly handles these cases at the Vatican level, Cardinal William Levada, has his own share of covering-up to answer for and enjoys the distinction of being the only prelate in the United States to be successfully sued for having placed a priest, Jon Conley, on administrative leave and ordering him to go into counseling for blowing the whistle on a sex abusing colleague.

  • The Miami Herald reports again on the case of former priest Ernesto Garcia-Rubio, who was allowed to transfer to the Miami Archdiocese from Cuba after Washington-based Apostolic Delegate Luigi Raimondi warned then-Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll that Garcia-Rubio "was forced to leave Cuba because of serious difficulties of a moral nature (homosexuality)." There were four sex-abuse allegations against Garcia-Rubio by teenage Nicaraguan and Salvadoran refugees from 1983 to 1988 and the Archdiocese sent him to St. Luke's for treatment. In 2004 the Archdiocese of Miami agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle almost two dozen lawsuits against various priests including Garcia-Rubio. The lawyers for the victims have posted all of the related documents and a timeline here on the Web. What really got to me was that in 1996, ten years after he was aware of the abuse allegations, Archbishop Edward McCarthy wrote a letter recommending Garcia-Rubio for a case worker position in the day care division of Catholic Community Services.

Many are not going to like this column, but can the Church truly blame the faithful for being fed up with the defensive nonsense that is coming out of the Vatican right now? It's time for our leaders to have the courage and integrity to lance the boil of sex abuse in our Church and let it heal completely as boils will do when opened up and allowed to drain.

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that they treat this evil as if it were a case of few bad apples among a bushel, when in reality is a deep institutional crisis that goes to the root of the church culture and disregard for the basis of human psique and psychology.
    I can’t say “they don’t get it”. Perhaps they do, but looks like the don’t care or they think that the columns of St. Peter are too massive and strong to go down for something like this, after all, they have withstand many evils, crisis and divisions during the history of the church as institution, but I’m afraid that the miscalculation here, is not seeing that the level of consciousness, instruction, awareness and “des-aborregamiento” of the masses is much higher now that let’s say 100, 150 years ago.
    I just compare my 5 years old grand son with myself or kids of my generation and I see that for example, we can’t dupe them with the Santa Close or The 3 Kings bringing presents story, for as long as they did with us…upps. I hope that I didn’t spoil the fun for any of you readers, mentioning this…
    Anyway, use your inner judgment, not your programming.

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